Five Ridge Prairie in western Plymouth County could grow by about 80 acres, if a land acquisition is successful.
The Plymouth County Conservation Board last week approved pursuing the opportunity to purchase those acres, owned by Kelley A. Dennison, in Section 19 of Sioux Township.
Dave Klohs, conservation board chairman, said there has been no offer accepted and the potential acquisition process is still "a work in progress."
"It's not a done deal," Klohs said. "We like the property and we hope things move forward on it."
One of the first hurdles is applying for a Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) grant to help pay for the land purchase.
The REAP program was set up by the Iowa Legislature to help protect the state's natural and cultural resources. REAP is funded through gaming receipts from Iowa casinos, he explained.
The conservation board approved that applying for a REAP grant at a special meeting last week. The grant application is due at the end of this week.
"We're probably going to have to pursue other grants as well," Klohs said. "We don't expect to ask the (county) supervisors or the taxpayers for money."
Klohs said the conservation board will be looking for partners to help provide local matching dollars as it did when the 160-acre Lloyd Addition to Five Ridge Prairie was purchased in 2011.
Last week the conservation board also approved using up to $30,000 from its reserve fund for the proposed 80-acre land purchase.
"It's an account the conservation board adds to every year specifically for land acquisition," Klohs said. "It's current balance is right at $70,000."
An appraisal on the proposed Five Ridge Prairie addition identified a $2,700 per acre offer price, approximately $216,000, he said.
"We cannot get grant funds if we pay over the appraised value," Klohs explained.
He said the Iowa Nature Conservancy, which obtained the appraisal of the 80 acres, would actually purchase the land, if funding is in order, and deed it to the county.
The property is primarily timber and could provide a possible access easement into Five Ridge Prairie from Highway 12, Klohs said.
There is an easement on the property now.
"We do not know if that easement is transferrable but it's something we want to get into," he said. "We need to get that clarified."
Currently, Five Ridge Prairie, which is located 11 miles southeast of Westfield, can only be accessed on the east side via 260th Street, a dirt road, from K-18.
Klohs said the proposed 80-acre addition to the prairie would be for public use including activities such as deer and turkey hunting, hiking and bird watching.
He said it's important to have public-owned ground statewide, noting that Five Ridge Prairie would be more than 1,000 acres total if the 80-acre addition is purchased.
"Plymouth County is near the bottom of the list for public-owned ground in the state of Iowa," Klohs said. "We think it's important to preserve some of this unique ground for future generations."